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2018-09-09 10:33:56   •   ID: 2023

Notches and Denticulation of the Old World Stone Age

Figure 1
Figure 1 displays a double notch from the Neolithic Khirokitia site on the island of Cyprus- see here: 1005 .

Notching and Denticulation are both a basal technique of the Stone Age and a characteristic trait of certain technocomplexes.

Notches: Two types of notches were distinguished: the “Clactonian notch”, created by one removal; and the „retouched notch“; characterized by a concavity obtained by several short removals.

Denticulates are created by repetitive notching. Two types have been arbitrarily described: macrodenticulates: the length of notches is larger than 5 mm and microdenticulates: the length of notches is smaller than 5 mm.

According to early studies, denticulation was suggested to be associated with a specific activity, or with a particular cultural phase. Anyhow notches and denticulates are multifunctional tools, coming from very different archaeological contexts.

Notches and Denticulation techniques were used:

  • in the creation of multi-purpose tools, especially for working with wood and soft materials


  • in the reworking of stone-tools (for example initiating a change in the orientation of bicacial knifes at the MIS-3 KMG site Wylotne in Poland or secondary reworking Bifaces to scrapers and notched tools at Lynford; UK)


  • in Hafting activities


  • in advanced “microburin” methods, also called truncation + notch + snap method


  • in the creation of effective hunting devices.


Figure 3
Notching and Denticulation are traditionally associated with the tool kit of the European and the Middle East Lower and Middle Paleolithic.

This tools appears very early in the Acheulean, and are sometimes found as frequently as scrapers in the assemblages (for example: Cagny-Ferme de l’Épinette. Unit MS. 1–4).

Figure 2 shows a denticulated piece from the Perigord Noire (La Rochette; see here: 1449 )

Notches are a hallmark of Handaxe free or poor industries like the “Clactonian” and the Middle Pleistocene „microlithic“ ensembles of Central Europe– for example found at Bilzingsleben.

Denticulation and Notching in the Middle East appears early during the Yabrudian and the Hummalian. Beyond the characteristic elongated points, single scrapers, notches and denticulates characterize the Hummalian ensembles.

At the Still Bay strata at Blombos; South Africa, deep notches on the distal, medial or proximal end of Leaf points are interpreted as indications of hafting.

In 2017, Rots et al. published strong evidence for hafting of serrated MSA points, found in a pre- Still Bay and pre- Howiesons Poort layer with an OSL age at least 77.3 ± 2.7 k.a. from Sibudu rock shelter in KwaZulu-Natal / South Africa.

During the Middle Paleolithic of France, Notches and Denticulates become an important tool-class relative to the dominant side-scrapers, especially in certain cases known as the “Denticulate Mousterian” where it is the dominant tool.

In 1953, the diagnosis of the Denticulate Mousterian was defined by Bordes by the following characteristics: “rare scrapers, very rare and often atypical handaxes and backed knives. Numerous and quite typical denticulated tools.”

During the 1990ies the Denticulate Mousterian was suggested as a set of pieces deteriorated by natural or accidental processes. For example, cryoturbation and human trampling could have produced pieces similar to notches and denticulates.

Rigorous reevaluation of several French series of toolkits dominated by the notches and denticulates by Céline Thiébaut showed, that this entity indeed exists.

Figure 3
Figure 3 displays a denticulated scraper from the Mousterian of Combe-Capellen the Couze valley in the Périgord.

But within this typological conformity there is much technological diversity how these tools were produced, although Discoid débitage is most prevalent.

Céline Thiébaut: “The existence of not a single Denticulate Mousterian but of different Mousterian industries with denticulates underlines the difficulty in finding them a common significance”.

Further technological analysis demonstrated that denticulates are made on blanks thicker than 9 mm on average, regardless of the blanks’ length and width, while scrapers are made on any type of blank.

Notches / Denticulated Middle Paleolithic ensembles in France were independent of raw material, site function, duration of stay and hunting activities.

Most of these ensembles date to MIS3, although there are first examples during MIS 7 and 5.

Notches and Denticulate are rather uncommon in the Upper Paleolithic. Fine denticulation is found at the Pavlovian sites in Central Europe and in late Magdalenian ensembles with “micro saws”.

Figure 4
Figure 4 shows a small denticulated point from the Tilemsi Valley.

During the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic of the Near East, Europe and N-Africa, notching and denticulation, especially in the context of the Micro-burin technique, re-appear as a constant trait of very differentiated lithic ensembles.

Surf the Blog: see here: 1543 and here: 2022